The title is a quote from Babylon 5: In the Beginning, and is also a very common sentiment that “it’s always the quiet ones you have to watch out for,” etc. This is true in many contexts, and it is true in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game.
I refer to that unobtrusive, often unheralded and unmarked but ever consistent and reliable mould of card sometimes referred to as the ‘glue hero’, because a lot of the time you don’t notice what they’re doing but they hold your decks together (not literally holding the cards together though, that would be bad, you know what I mean). Those heroes who don’t have the flashy abilities to chew through enemies, blow up whole quest stages by themselves or whatever, who simply are always there, just making your game run smoother without driving your threat up too high or taking up a lot of deckspace to make them work.
Consider some of the heroes we’ve had in the past cycle and a bit, plus sagas – Tactics Aragorn is arguably the best attacking hero in the game for sheer killing power, he’s very good at what he does, Treebeard can become a one Ent army if you power him up properly, Theoden has those impressive stats and trait-based cost reduction. And yet if I were to go into the CotR Discord and ask its various luminaries which recently released heroes have had the biggest impact on the metagame and the way you go about deckbuilding, the answers would almost certainly pass over those guys and focus instead on the glue heroes – Erestor, Arwen, Galdor, and Leadership Denethor. The power heroes are flashy, but the ones who really change things up are the heroes who just help you with cards, resources, and a good setup in the early-game. Hell, even if we look to the early days of the game, we got some powerful heroes in Aragorn, Gloin, Legolas, etc, if you’re looking for a hero to make your deck work better, who are you most likely to grab from the Core Set? I would say most likely you’ll go for Theodred or Beravor – resources and cards.
Now this should not be seen as detracting from the flashy spotlight-stealing heroes – part of the reason they’re not as ubiquitous is that they kind of pull focus, and it’s hard to have your deck really focus on more than one of its heroes at a time, while the glue heroes can slot in anywhere without needing that focus, part of the point of them being that they’re pretty much just drag-and-drop (I suppose Erestor isn’t since you have to account for being forced to discard, though I have wondered in the past about just subbing Erestor into a deck in place of e.g. Beravor and seeing how much difference it made – I suspect it wouldn’t be as bad as people might expect). But here I just wanted to take some time to acknowledge the tremendous power, versatility and metagame impact of the glue heroes – obviously only time will tell, but I don’t think every new release is going to see the front page of RingsDB entirely populated by the newly released hero as it was with Denethor.
There’s not much more to this, so let’s just give a quick rundown of all the more obvious examples:
One extra resource per round. Who cares that he’s only 1 willpower, an extra resource every round is huge even without the fact it’s also flexible as to who you put it on. Add that in and Theodred isn’t just a glue hero for you, he’s a glue hero for the entire table in multiplayer.
Two extra cards per round. Sure, requires an exhaust which can be a hefty cost to pay, you might prefer to make use of those versatile stats, but then as soon as you draw enough good cards to take up the slack and leave Beravor free you can freely exhaust her to draw more cards and it just snowballs up. As with Theodred, can work for everyone, not just you.
Over-costed for his stats and without the targeted nature of Beravor in multiplayer, but extra cards are still extra cards.
Lowest threat in his sphere until Glorfindel came along and can potentially completely solve your defensive needs by himself, freeing up deckspace for other things.
Doesn’t give you anything extra (though he allows other players to do so), but just smoothing out resources between spheres can make things a lot easier, plus he’s only 7 threat.
9 threat is low for Leadership, being able to cancel shadows can certainly help your games run smoother, and as a Leadership Dwarf he gives you immediate access to both Steward of Gondor and King Under the Mountain. Resources and cards, that’s everything you need. There’s more in my RingsDB card review but those are the pertinent points here.
6 threat, adds card draw, and gives you at least 1 extra round’s grace before engaging some enemies (more if you also compare his threat cost to that of other heroes you might’ve had instead), and draws you more cards. Again, more in the RingsDB card review but that’s the meat of the matter.
What’s a little Doomed compared to some cost reduction that can be applied to any sphere as you want it? Your friends might hate you in multiplayer but your deck will sing.
These are starting to feel very repetitive. Resources, resources and more resources. You can build around the once per phase limit to get multiple engagements for more resources, or you can just drop him in and get 2 resources each round assuming there are enemies to engage.
The most obvious indication that a glue hero doesn’t really even need to have stats to be incredibly useful. Allies questing without exhausting is the icing on the cake of an extra card every round, plus threat reduction and don’t forget access to the Mirror of Galadriel for all your janky combo needs. Everything is better with Galadriel.
Yeah, you have to build around dumping whatever’s left of your hand every round, but in exchange you go through your deck at a rate of knots. Need your cards quickly? Erestor will get them for you.
Yeah, you know what I’m going to say, extra resources. But also, in combination with Elven-light, you can turn those resources into cards as well! That’s a bit more about Elven-light being a game-changing card rather than Arwen so much, but they’re kind of joined at the hip.
Galdor of the Havens
Cards. Emptying your hand to get the extra 6 might be difficult, but well worth it, and on the flipside just his first ability – the hardest part of the game is the start, so getting a good setup makes a massive difference.
Smooths resources like Bifur (assuming you have other Gondor heroes), but also 2 extra resources in setup? If that doesn’t sound like a big deal it should. Again, hardest part of the game is the start. There’s a reason you get extra resources in Easy Mode.
So here’s to the glue heroes. May they ever make your decks run smoothly.